Ezra Pound: Poems

Ezra Pound: Poems Study Guide

Ezra Pound's contribution to poetry is marked by his promotion of Imagism, a movement centered on clarity, economic language, and rhythm. Pound started this movement after studying Japanese forms of poetry like waka verse and haiku. These forms have strict conventions and are typically very frugal with words. According to Imagism, poets should write "in fear of abstractions." Imagism was based on three principles, compiled by Pound, Richard Aldington, and Hilda Doolittle:

1. Direct treatment of the "thing," whether subjective or objective.

2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.

3. Regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of a musical phrase, not in the sequence of a metronome.

Though Ezra Pound had work published in a few small American publications, the poet started to make an impact on the literary scene only after moving to Europe. In July 1908, he published his first book of poetry called A Lume Spento (With Tapers Spent). Pound contributed to literary magazines such as Poetry, The New Freewoman, The Egoist, and BLAST while he was living in London and Paris, and helped other contemporary poets like T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, James Joyce, and Ernest Hemingway shape their work.

Some of Ezra Pound's most famous works include Ripostes, Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, and The Cantos. Ripostes, a collection of 25 of Pound's poems, was published by Swift and Co. in London in February of 1912. Eight of these poems had appeared in magazines before this collection was published, and one was a repeat from his first book of poetry, A Lume Spento. Ripoestes marks the beginning of Pound's adoption of the Imagist style, and appropriately, it is the first time Pound uses the word "Imagiste."

Critics and scholars regard Hugh Selwyn Mauberley as a major turning point in Pound's career, and he completed it shortly before he left England. The Cantos is a long, 120-section poem that Pound was never able to finish. It contains his opinions on government, economics, and culture, and includes Chinese characters and other non-English quotations. The section of The Cantos that Pound wrote at the end of World War II in occupied Italy is called the The Pisan Cantos, and it won the first Bollingen Prize in 1948.

Pound's work has received mixed reviews, mainly because of the nature of his writing style. Critics identify Pound's strong lyricism and modernity, and also recognize that his Imagism was a reaction against abstraction in writing. Pound drew inspiration from the clarity of Chinese and Japanese verse as well as Greek classics in order to combat the increasing generalities in poetry. His legacy lives on because of the profound impact Imagism has had on modern poetry, and also because he nurtured many other poets' careers as the editor of numerous literary publications. In addition to the aforementioned writers, Pound also worked with Marianne Moore, Jacob Epstein, e. e. cummings, and George Oppen. However, Pound's work never gained a wide audience, and Pound himself recognized his own shortcomings as a writer because of his adherence to certain idealogical fallacies.